Bonjour from Paris!
I booked my tickets to the French capital on a whim, and arrived without any plans.
I have spent about 95% of my time walking, 93% of which has been in the wrong direction.
As if I didn’t already know, this trip has taught me that I have no sense of direction. Like, none.
Fortunately, there have been interesting scenes and pretty vistas around most corners, and I’m not in a rush to get anywhere.
One great thing about Paris is that everything is walkable.
The relatively compact city is only 6 miles across, but this doesn’t include the suburbs outside the Boulevard Périphérique – Paris’s ring road which forms the border of Paris proper.
But even a small city seems sprawling when explored by foot. Over the course of my trip (about four and a half days), my pedometer clocked over 92,000 steps. That’s roughly 70km.
And that’s a good thing, because if I hadn’t been doing all of that walking, I wouldn’t have been able to justify the number of macarons I consumed.
My budget was kind of mid-range, so I cut costs on transport by flying with a budget airline and walking everywhere instead of using public transport (which is quite cheap in Paris, anyway). I also stayed in Le Marais, so I was close to the centre.
I ate out in restarants a couple of times, but also ate lots of bread, cheese, and pastries from local grocery stores. One of my favourite things to do in foreign countries is visit food shops. As a foodie, I love seeing everything on offer, discovering new produce, and seeing what locals eat on a day to day basis.
The food highlight for me (in addition to fresh bread and macarons) was at the Marché des Enfants Rouges. The marché is the oldest covered market in Paris, and it features food stalls serving cooked Moroccan, Asian, Creole, Italian, and French food, in addition to some produce stands. It’s small, cozy, colourful, and has a bustling atmosphere.
I ordered the “Special du Chef” from a busy Moroccan stand. After I had ordered and paid, a manic yet effective trilingual server found me a sunny wrought iron chair at a shared table (and an extra chair for my bag), and in minutes, I was delivered a huge terracotta pot full of steaming hot couscous, lamb, stewed beef, vegetables, prunes, chicken, and all sorts of other beautifully spiced fare. It was an epic meal, and I will be returning.
After finishing (as much as I could of) the meal, I retreated to a small green park – the Square du Temple – to read my book in the shade until the streets thinned of lunchtime frenzy. An elderly man wearing an old brown coat and carrying a baguette pointed at the space on the bench next to me, and I gesticulated in return that he sit. He pitched with uncertainty on the edge of the blue bench, tossing fat crumbs of baguette to the small bouncing birds at his feet.
In a desperate attempt to learn new vocabulary and to appear friendly, I smiled a little too broadly and asked the man in my best classroom French, “what kind of birds are these?”, but he tapped his chest and said “non non français– moi Serb”.
But not wanting to end the conversation, the man, whose face resembled a peeled baked apple, pointed at the bird and gave it a short two-syllable name, followed by, “en Serb”.
I understood, and repeated the word several times as the man nodded and corrected my pronunciation. He then pointed at a tree, another tree, a lamppost, a bench, a garbage bin, and a butterfly. And I found myself learning Serbian in a Paris park.
Before too long, the man, in Serbian and exaggerated gestures, explained that he was a tailor and that he must go back to work to fix trousers (at least . . . that’s what I think he said). I waved goodbye, and began walking south(ish) toward the river.
Just to put things in perspective, I spent about £335 on the whole trip:
£22 Return airfare (Ryan Air *sigh*)
£160 Airbnb accommodation – 4 nights
£28 Return shuttle to/from Paris Beauvais Airport
£3 Metro fare
£36 Macarons – some where for gifts, I promise!
£26 Museum and site tickets
£60 Meals (restaurants & grocery)
Here are my highlights:
- Eco displays along the right bank – walking west from Le Marais, all along the pedestrianised riverside, there is an extensive series of posters, displays, and proposals for an Eco Paris. There were models of rooftop gardens and really cool architectural plans, pictures of shared city allotments, and even a solar powered phone charging station. I found it really interesting and inspiring, but if eco doesn’t float your boat, there are also foosball tables.
- Marché des Enfants Rouges – eat Moroccan here. Cheap, authentic, and amazing.
- Mai Thai – three course specials each day for about €12/15. Eat here.
- Monsieur Benjamin – Buy macarons here. All macarons are not created equally, and I continued to return to this place for their chocolate peanut butter masterpieces.
- Night walks – I was lucky enough to have a great Airbnb host who took me on a couple of nighttime walks. Everything looks beautiful in Paris at night. And even though it’s a bit cliche, if you can get a view of the Eiffiel Tower after dark, it’s so, so worth it. 20,000 sparkling lights are brought to life for five minutes every hour, on the hour, from dusk until 1 am. It’s magical.
Other (t00 general) observations:
- Paris police cars looks like toys, and cannot be taken seriously; but
- Paris police officers on roller skates are just plain cool.
- Everyone in Paris wears sneakers or flats; few women wear makeup.
- Parisians are very, very friendly – don’t be afraid to talk to strangers.
- Parisians like to sleep in parks? Here are some random nap snaps:
How I packed for Paris